Company:StickyData LLC, a New York City
online custom design and development firm
2000 sales: $1.3 million
2001 projections: $2 million
At an age when most people are just getting their feet wet in entry-level jobs, Katie Lukas, CEO and founder of StickyData LLC, is kicking up her heels in the deep end. Drawing from her previous experience as an interface designer and creative director, Lukas founded her firm in 1999. "At other companies [I had worked for], I felt like people were getting in the way of me being able to do my best work for my clients," explains the entrepreneur. "I wanted the freedom and the responsibility to be able to make my own mistakes and at least be able to blame myself for them. I frequently felt like I was part of a Dilbert cartoon, and I really wanted [StickyData] to be the antithesis of that."
StickyData has achieved steady success, despite the dotcom slowdown and early growing pains. "A significant portion of our team came on in the beginning of 2000, and it really took time for them to solidify as a team," she says. "While I understood that there are perils to growth, I don't think I realized how long it takes even for smart, responsible people to work together as a team."
Staff cohesion hasn't been Lukas' only difficulty. As a young CEO, she admits some women clients feel threatened by her position. "I have to make sure I'm never patronizing, that I always make people feel intelligent and that I always give them the benefit of the doubt," she says. "As a woman, and especially a young woman, I have to prove myself much more forcefully than I do otherwise. When I walk into a room, I can't be mediocre. I have to make sure everybody walks away saying, 'Wow.' " Our thoughts exactly.-Talicia A. Flint